“I’m pretty positive he did it on purpose.”

May 10, 2011

This morning I stopped by the post office to mail a number of post cards to California state legislators for a nonprofit I volunteer with. As I was putting the stamps on the post cards (there were a lot of them, so I was standing at the counter for a while), a man brushed up against me and his hand rubbed against my ass.

At first I shrugged it off because I figured he was just trying to squeeze by me, but when I turned around I realized there was a good 4 feet of space between the counter where I was standing and the wall behind it that he could have easily walked through… so now I’m pretty positive he did it on purpose.

I was angry, but also frustrated that the way he did it was sneaky enough to make me doubt myself and hesitate, so he was gone before I was able to confront him.

– Sara

Location: Santa Cruz, CA

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Find suggestions for what YOU can do about this human rights issue.


What’s being done about street harassment in Belfast?

May 9, 2011

I was walking homeward along a busy road (end of the day, commuters were returning home) just round the corner from my house when my shopping trolley malfunctioned. As I stopped and turned to examine it, I heard a loud roar from a car next to me – it actually sounded exactly like a dog, so when I looked up and saw that it was a man hanging out of the car window doing the roaring, I was really shocked.

It happened very fast, and the traffic column was both moving his car away from me and obscuring his number plate, so I just walked on, not realising how upset I was until I turned into my street and my way was briefly obstructed (not that they did it purposely) by election canvassers. They were for the party I support and when I saw one who was female and about my age I stopped her and asked about the party’s policy on fighting street harassment.

I got very upset at that point; it all just hit me. She was really great, and I ended up talking to her and her older female colleague for ages – I explained how my partner and I had been violently assaulted in our street a year ago and that incidents like the one with the guy in the car brought it back. We talked quite a bit about crime victims’ experiences with the policing and justice system (ours had been bad), about local crime etc., and while I was very shaken by what happened, I felt glad that I’d raised the issue with them and it’s made me think about ways there might be of bringing people together locally to highlight the issue of street harassment and the fact that it shouldn’t be tolerated.

– Anonymous

Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Find suggestions for what YOU can do about this human rights issue.


Parellels of street harassment & police harassment

May 5, 2011

Stopping street harassment is going to take women and men. The problem is that it’s often viewed as a woman’s issue alone, which clearly neglects that the majority of those who harass are men. As a Black man, I seldom worry about going somewhere having a person make unwanted advances, touching my person, or live in the constant fear that any moment I could be accosted.

Or do I?

In hearing the testimonies of women enduring street harassment, I couldn’t help but hear the testimonies of young men of color regarding police harassment. While street harassment and police harassment have key difference, in many important ways they’re similar.* Here are three important parallels:

It’s everywhere- I live in New York City, the mecca of diversity. However, when you look at the stop-and-frisk numbers for the city you find that Black and Latino (predominantly male) residents are singled out. In 2009, of 576,394 stops and frisks were performed and 84 percent of them were on Blacks and Latinos. This is astronomically high, given that Black and Latino compose roughly 26 and 27 percent of the population respectively. The harassment that men of color often undergo via the police is a constant pressure. When walking through Harlem, I routinely see Black boys approached by undercover officers and forced to submit to “random searches.”

These searches are anything but random and serve to make young boys and men feel unsafe in their own communities. In the same way that young men of color are subject to an “invisible force” that disrupts their life without consent, young women of color feel the same. Somehow we live in communities where both men and women of color feel unsafe, displaced and harmed by harassment. Neither forms of harassment lead to safer communities or healthy relationships.

It’s illegal- When we look at the stop-and-frisk data from NYC we see the number on reason someone is stopped and frisked is “furtive movement.” Do you know what that is? Me neither. In fact, you’re not supposed to! The goal is to find any reason possible to stop and deter you from going where you’re going or living your life peacefully. Sound familiar?

Of course disproportionately stopping and frisking people is illegal, just as street harassment should be, but too many of us turn a blind eye to both. It’s going to take those that are the most and the least affected by street harassment and police harassment to come together to fight them. One sided action is not enough.

Knowledge is Powerful!

The Center for Constitutional Rights and Hollaback! have begun to carefully documenting the incidents of harassment. But we all must realize documentation is not enough! As organizers and members of communities, we need to create models that reduce levels of harassment, increase feelings of safety, and heal wounds within communities where gender violence, police violence, and all forms of violence have cracked the foundation.

Here in New York, I work with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement which has developed as Know Your Rights campaign for communities of African descent. The People’s Self-Defense campaign is ultimately designed to give community members the tools to develop healthy communities that are safe spaces for all people, not a select few. Simply pointing at the problem will not cause it to change; instead strategic coalition building and intersectional approaches will be the proving ground for our collective to stop street harassment. The moment is ripe for collaboration and growth, but only if we can see the common harms and develop diverse responses to them.  

*One of the first things I ever learned in organizing and doing work was “don’t do analogs.” While this is good advice, in some cases analogs are essential to creating buy-in from those who may not always see the “relevance” of a social problem. Admittedly there are differences between the two, but as an organizer I’m more interested in getting people to see the common ground so we can develop diverse solutions to these problems.

Dr. L’Heureux Dumi Lewis, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Black Studies at the City College of New York

This post is part of the weekly blog series by male allies. We need men involved in the work to end the social acceptability of street harassment and to stop the practice, period. If you’d like to contribute to this weekly series, please contact me.


“If I was a woman, would the harassment have been worse?”

May 5, 2011

It’s usually nothing serious, but I ride my bicycle a lot, and sometimes drivers pass me and yell things at me. I can never understand what they’re saying. I’m guessing they’re drivers who think they own the road and cyclists don’t belong there.

It normally happens on campus during the day, so it doesn’t bother me then. But last week, this happened when I was coming back to my dorm at 1:00 AM from a bar that was 3 miles away. I immediately thought, “If I was a woman, would the harassment have been worse? Would they have followed me while repeatedly shouting sexually explicit comments, then gotten angry when I asked them to stop?” Since the cold weather was gone (it was the end of April) and I was riding a bike, it was too warm to cover up. That in combination with the fact that I was coming from a bar means that I probably would have been dressed in a way that harassers would refer to as “asking for it”.

Although I’m a man, male superiority (or any superiority) still bothers me. A woman has just as much of a right to ride her bike at 1:00 in the morning as a man does, and she has the right to feel safe when doing so.

– Concealed Weapon

Location: University of Connecticut

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Find suggestions for what YOU can do about this human rights issue.


“I did not want to be followed or harassed about ethnic backgrounds”

May 4, 2011

I had just departed ways with my friend around 11:30PM. We had just finished watching the Bruins-Flyers game and celebrating her birthday. After missing the bus I decided to walk home than wait 15 minutes for the next one. I was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt (hood covering my head), jeans and flip flops. A very casual outfit for the night.

As I was passing along Massachusetts Ave near Symphony Hall in Boston, a male in his mid-20s sped by on his bike and turned around to look at me. He slowed down almost to a stop to turn back to ask if me I spoke Spanish. I responded,” No, I don’t speak Spanish,” proceeded to keep walking.

Side note: I am not of any Spanish heritage and most people assume I am of this group and speak Spanish. Which makes me annoyed. I am Native American and I do not speak Spanish.

So this individual stops at the crosswalk, waiting for me to catch up. I was just merely walking to cross the street. It was a red light so the man on the bike keeps probing questions, asking if I was Mexican or if I like Mexicans.

I told him no and to leave me alone. He followed me on his bike across one crosswalk and said that I had a nice ass and it would be better if I was a dirty mexican.

I was infuriated at this point because I was not looking for attention, did not want to be followed or harassed about ethnic backgrounds.

I yelled at him (in front of other people at the crosswalk) to stop following me and to fuck off. Probably not the best reaction. I sped walked to a nearest bar entrance and darted across the street. People looked at him and he rode his bike in a different direction.

I kept walking down a street, in the opposite direction of my apartment, cut down an alley to take the longer walk home to avoid running into him. I stopped walking and started to run down the street to my building occasionally glancing back to see if anyone was behind me.

I felt violated, grossed out and pissed off. I do not understand why some men feel they need to make remarks like that to a women. I am not sure if he thought I would respond the way I did. But I was flabbergasted and upset. I informed my friends of the incident and let them know i was home safely.

This is not the first time someone has tried to hit on my due to my dark complexion. I have now stopped dressing cute because I don’t want people to approach on the street. If I do dress up, I make sure I am with a group or people or a man. I wish I were not like this but I feel much better when people don’t hit on me.

– JL

Location: 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, MA

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Find suggestions for what YOU can do about this human rights issue.


“I just don’t know what else to do”

May 3, 2011

Well here’s another update of my experiences with street harassment. It’s a shame that I need to post these ‘updates’ so often.

Since my last story, I have been harassed several times. All are pretty minor but again the affect it had on me was more than trivial.

1) This happened the day after I was called ‘fat’ by some silly little boys (see ‘look how fat that girl is‘ post) I was going up to my boyfriend’s house, but instead of walking, I took a taxi. Yes, I took a taxi because most of the harassment I get happens when I’m either walking to or from his house. Today I just wasn’t in the mood. Yet I still coudn’t escape it. When the cab drove up my boyfriend’s street, the work men who had leered at me before were there again. And they noticed me in the taxi. They all looked at me and watched as I got out of the car. Then I saw that they were grinning to each other. I did the same thing as I did the last time, give them the middle finger. I was fuming inside though. I couldn’t even catch a cab without being harassed in some way!

2) It is not just men who harass. Sometimes girls or women can be just as bad. And to prove this, I was snickered at and called a ‘minger’ by some girls as I walked back home later on. My boyfriend told me that some girls had also laughed at him when he walked out of the shop. We believe they could be the same ones.

3) This Saturday, I had just nipped out to grab something to eat (I was staying in a guest house) and whilst walking back, a middle aged man sitting on a bench shouted, “Hi how are you?” I stopped in my tracks and confused, asked him if he was speaking to me. “Yes, I was asking you how you are” he responded. I said that I was fine and he then asked me my name. I gave him a fake name before he asked if I could come and sit with him and have a chat. I politely explained that I was in a rush to get home before speeding off. When I got back to the guest house (I go there often and am friendly with the family) I told the wife what had happened. She then told me that a similar ordeal happened to her daughter earlier on that day! Two men had bluntly asked her for sex.

4) This again happened when I was walking to my boyfriend’s house. Two men were walking on the opposite side of the road to me and were both staring and grinning at me. I scowled at them and I think they noticed I was intimidated because they kept looking back and chuckling.

So those are my recent experiences. All in the period of two weeks.

I have tried everything. Ignoring them, responding to them non verbally e.g. middle finger, a ‘look’, verbally e.g. “grow up and have some respect”, avoiding places where I’m more likely to be harassed, using transport to get to places instead of walking to avoid being harassed, changing what I wear. But nothing works. I now use a different route to get to my boyfriends house which avoids the main road and near the shops. I am losing weight because of street harassment. I just don’t know what else to do.

THIS HAS GOT TO END.

– Clarice

Location: North Cornelly. Wales

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Find suggestions for what YOU can do about this human rights issue.


Yuck

May 2, 2011

I’m 14 and in private school in NYC. Yesterday I was getting off at 14 Street and this old guy is like, “Nice ass baby.”

I freakin wear a uniform!?? Yuck.

– Nat

Location: New York City

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Find suggestions for what YOU can do about this human rights issue.


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